How can I keep someone from contacting me in email?

Sometimes you may want to explicitly keep someone from contacting you. Ignoring them is often simplest, but there are tools to help as well.

//
How can I keep someone from contacting me in email or instant messaging?

Severing communication is an unpleasant necessity at times. For personal or legal reasons you may want someone to stop contacting you or someone you know. The rub is that you’d like everyone else to be able to contact you as before.

We can’t control what other people do, but there are some ways we can either make it more difficult to be contacted, or automate the process of ignoring the contact attempts.

A new email address

For email, the most radical solution to keep someone from contacting you is to change your address. Specifically:

  • Create a new email address or email account.
  • Begin using it as your primary email address.
  • Tell all your friends, businesses and acquaintances.
  • Don’t tell the person you’re attempting to block.
  • Stop paying attention to the old email address.

That’s a fairly harsh solution because, as you can see, it means that you tell everyone from whom you want email to change how they contact you. And of course some stragglers won’t get the message, and you’ll lose contact with them when you stop paying attention to that old email address.

Automate ignoring them

Stop!A more realistic solution, perhaps, is to automatically ignore them. Set things up so you never have to see the email that they send you.

Most email clients have the ability for you to set up rules or filters that will take action on an email when it arrives. So use your email program to set up a rule that says, in essence:

  • if mail is from this person
  • then delete it immediately

The person can continue to send you email, but you’ll never see it, and they’ll never hear back.

If your email client doesn’t have rules or filtering built in, then you might check with your email provider. Many offer web-based access, and quite often that includes rules or filtering as well. By setting up a filter directly with your ISP, the email you filter out will never even be downloaded.

Accept email from your address book only

As another almost draconian measure, many email services as well as some mail clients have a spam filtering option that allow you to reject email that isn’t from an address in your address book. This means you’ll accept email only from people you know. Set that up and remove this person’s email address from your address book, and their email will be rejected (whether or not they hear about it depends on your particular email provider).

There are serious drawbacks to this approach, since there’s often a lot of legitimate email that arrives from addresses you don’t know beforehand, such as confirmations of online purchases or other business correspondence. Heck, it could be someone you just met but haven’t yet added to your address book.

But it can be an extreme solution.

Treat it like spam

If much of what I’ve just described sounds familiar it should; these are similar to many techniques used to fight spam. Fighting spam is, when you think about it, all about keep someone from contacting you.

In both cases you’re receiving unwanted email. The only difference is that in this case you know who’s sending it.

So as a last resort, you could just mark the unwanted email as spam. Eventually your spam filter should “learn” that email from this person is unwanted and filter it automatically for you.

The down side is that you’re telling the spam filter that “email from this person is spam” – which may be used to prevent that person’s mail from being delivered to others as well.

Play

Comments

  1. Nonnie

    How do we counter the financial scam letters from Africa that use Yahoo mail? Yes! I use Mail Washer effectively. Are there any other ideas?

  2. I use the delete key, myself. Really, there’s very little else to be done in the common case.

    The irony is that these letters would stop completely shortly after they stopped working. But, sadly, enough people *still* fall for it that the spammers & scammers see it as worth continuing.

    • John

      Unfortunately, all it takes is for one person out of a million to fall for the the scam letter, and the scammer is ahead of his game. Darn that one person.

      John

  3. K

    What happens to SPAM emails that are filtered out of your account. Is there a delivery failure email to the sender or does it just delete the email and never inform the sender that you did not and will not receive any more emails from them?

    • Alain

      It’s just deleted. The sender is never informed. There is so much SPAM that sending delivery faillure messages to the senders may slow down the whole web. Also, the sender address is almost always forged, so, there is no use to send any message to the apparent sender…

      • John

        Plus, if the notice goes to an actual sender, he might be able to figure out that it’s a valid e-mail address, which makes your e-mail address more valuable for selling.

  4. Leo

    What happens to filtered spam depends on the email system and filtering solution. The *right* thing is to do nothing – just delete it. Any kind of response will tell the spammer that they;ve reached a valid email address, and will result in MORE spam, not less.

  5. jojo

    somebody is sending me emails and i am not interested to read them or not BUT i want him to know that i am not receiving anything from him.
    could you help me please i really need him to know that i am not reading his mails.

    • Alain

      Set a filter to send a “Message has been automaticaly deleted” reply. Make sure that you make it absolutely clear that it’s an automated reply.

  6. nada

    hi
    if i block someone and delete it from my msn messenger. i find the adreess on privacy
    how can i delete it from privacy?

  7. M

    someone is harrasing me at my work’s e-mail also on my work cell. I know who it is but when I confronted this person they deny the phone calls & e-mails and now state that I hacked into their computer. I have printed all the e-mails. This has been going for for several years and need to put a stop to it as it is emotionally draining. Can I file charges against this person?

    I’m afraid I’m not a lawyer. You should contact one, or your local law enforcement to see what’s possible and practical.

    - Leo
    06-Oct-2008
    • John

      I discussed a similar situation with our local police. The officer told me to send them one more communication saying that I was legally requesting that he never contact me again. I went one step further, and in that message, said that the local police department sergeant told me to send this message to him. Be sure to keep a record proving when you sent the communication. In my case, since all of his contacts were by e-mail and by text message, I made my request by e-mail and sent a text to his phone asking that he read the e-mail. I kept copies of both messages.

      He did send three messages over the next two months, which I ignored, then he finally moved out of state. He probably realized that I was ignoring him, and knew that I had shown his threats to the police.

      The thing is that if it continues, you need to be willing to consult a lawyer. He knew that if I was willing to show the police, that I’d be willing to see a lawyer.

  8. shelly lawrence

    I want someone to know I am not reading their emails to me. I dont want them to think they went through, and my emai is just deleting them before i see them.
    What happens when I block somoene on my aol acct. Do they know when they email me it doesnt go through? Is there a way to do this?

  9. celia

    How can random people (or bots) continue to IM me on yahoo messenger even though I have it set to ignore anyone who is not on my contact list? This is the 3rd week of me receiving anonymous messages when I log in despite my “ignore” settings? Help would greatly appreciated.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article. Seriously. You'd be shocked at how many people make comments that prove they didn't.
  • Comment only on the article. If you have a new, unrelated question start with the search box at the top of the page.
  • Don't post personal information. Email addresses, phone numbers and such will be removed.

VERY IMPORTANT: because of a rise in comment spam that's making it through our filters any comments that do not add to the discussion - typically off topic or content-free comments - run a very high risk of being flagged as spam and removed.

If you have a new question unrelated to the article above, ask it on the Ask Leo! ask-a-question page.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *